Sirhan Sirhan
Sirhan Sirhan REUTERS/California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation/Handout via Reut

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday rejected releasing Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin Sirhan Sirhan from prison, The Associated Press reported.

Newsom rejected a recommendation from a two-person panel of parole commissioners issued this past August. Newsom said Sirhan, now 77, poses an unreasonable threat to public safety.

“Mr. Sirhan’s assassination of Senator Kennedy is among the most notorious crimes in American history,” Newsom wrote in his decision.

“After decades in prison, he has failed to address the deficiencies that led him to assassinate Senator Kennedy. Mr. Sirhan lacks the insight that would prevent him from making the same types of dangerous decisions he made in the past,” the governor added.

He said factors in his decision including Sirhan's refusal to accept responsibility for his crime, his lack of insight and the accountability required to support his safe release, his failure to disclaim violence committed in his name, and his failure to mitigate his risk factors.

Sirhan shot and killed Kennedy on June 5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, shortly after Kennedy had won California's Democratic presidential primary.

Sirhan was convicted of first-degree murder in 1969 and sentenced to death. His sentence was reduced to life in prison when California abolished the death penalty in 1972.

A Christian Palestinian Arab, Sirhan said in his confession that he murdered Kennedy because he was angered by the Democratic Senator's support for the State of Israel.

The slaying took place five years after his brother, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated.

Sirhan will be scheduled for a new parole hearing no later than February 2023, according to AP.

His defense attorney, Angela Berry, said on Thursday Sirhan will ask a judge to overturn Newsom’s denial, said

“We fully expect that judicial review of the governor’s decision will show that the governor got it wrong,” she said.

The parole panel’s recommendation in August to release Sirhan divided the Kennedy family, with two of RFK’s sons — Douglas Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — supporting his release. Six of Kennedy’s nine surviving children and Ethel Kennedy, RFK’s wife, urged Newsom to block his parole.

At the time, former congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II, the oldest son of RFK, denounced the possible parole of Sirhan.

“The prisoner killed my father because of his support of Israel," Kennedy wrote. “The man was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. Yet he now may walk free, no doubt to the cheers of those who share his views. Let there be no mistake, the prisoner’s release will be celebrated by those who believe that political disagreements can be solved by a gun."

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